When we created Drink Your Carbs we assumed that ours was the first diet designed specifically for people who wanted to lose weight while continuing to drink alcohol. We were dead wrong. The first diet intended specifically for drinkers preceded us by nearly 150 years.
We have touched on this issue before. In fact, we detailed this history in our very first post to the DYC blog, way back in October of 2011. That history of low-carb diets for drinkers is among our favorite things we’ve ever written. Unfortunately, being the first blog post on a new website, no one saw it. Not even our parents visited the website back then. DYC was as lonely and deserted as Google+.
This is not a long and illustrious history. Only two Drinker’s Diets preceded us. Both of those diets are strikingly different from DYC, but their authors deserve full credit for recognizing, long before either of us was born, the fact that drinking is fully compatible with weight loss.
The first Drinker’s Diet was published in 1863 under the name Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. The author was a British mortician named William Banting. The entire diet is fewer than 20 pages long. Actual advice for weight loss takes up less than two of those pages. The rest of the letter is dedicated to Banting whining about his various physical ailments. Reading it feels a lot like visiting your grandfather in a rest home.
Banting began his diet in wonderfully overstated fashion, “Of all the parasites that affect humanity I do not know of, nor can I imagine, any more distressing than that of obesity.” Eventually, and after much hyperbole, Banting finally describes his diet. The diet, in its entirety, is: no “bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes.”
In 1863, these recommendations were radical. The medical establishment had a conniption and universally panned the diet as outright dangerous. Today, we can see the Banting recommendations for what they are, a relatively standard low carbohydrate program.
Banting goes on to pair his food restrictions with a drinking regimen that would incapacitate most normal humans, including a cordial with breakfast, wine with lunch, wine with dinner and a nightcap of “[a] tumbler or grog—(gin, whisky, or brandy, without sugar)—or a glass or two of claret or sherry.” Not only did Banting create the first Drinker’s Diet, his “without sugar” requirement is unquestionably the original prototype of our No Mixers rule.
The mere description of the quantity of alcohol Banting drank on a daily basis gives us a hangover. This is the reason DYC requires exercise. It would be virtually impossible to follow to the letter the Banting diet and still make it to your morning workout. This should be sufficient reason not to “Bant,” as the diet was referred to in its day.
If you want to read Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, it’s available on-line for free at Archive.org.
The second work that preceded Drink Your Carbs was also published in the form of a pamphlet. In 1964, Robert Cameron published The Drinking Man’s Diet: How To Lose Weight With A Minimum Of Will Power. Strangely, Cameron wrote the book under two pseudonyms, Gardner Jameson and Elliott Williams. Perhaps Cameron thought that listing multiple authors would add intellectual heft to a diet he is able to explain in two sentences: “Eat less than sixty grams of carbohydrates a day. That’s all there is to it.”
Like Banting’s diet, Cameron’s diet was not without controversy. In 1965, Time Magazine reviewed the diet and concluded that “The drinking man’s diet is utter nonsense, has no scientific basis, and is chock-full of errors. . . . [I]f a man eats and drinks heavily, he is going to gain weight and get drunk.”
We agree with Time Magazine that Cameron’s pamphlet is filled with errors. Cameron lists wine as having no carbohydrates and Mint Juleps—a classic Southern cocktail that contains enough sugar to make a can of Dr. Pepper seem savory by comparison—as having only three. However, we strongly disagree with the rest of the Time review. The review is a blatant attempt to bolster the argument that alcohol consumption is incompatible with dieting. We have spent the last five years diligently working to prove that this assertion is simply not true.
Aside from the mathematical errors, The Drinking Man’s Diet is impressive for its simplicity and obvious effectiveness. We have no doubt that if someone can really hold themselves to 60 grams of carbohydrates a day, they will lose weight. A limit of 60 grams of carbohydrates effectively removes all sugars and starches from a person’s diet. The result will be calorie restriction and weight loss, even without any recommendations for exercise. This is, of course, assuming that they don’t rely on Cameron for the carbohydrate counts.
It is also worth noting that under the heading “Scientific Basis,” Cameron cites William Banting’s weight loss as proof of the effectiveness of The Drinking Man’s Diet. It’s never a good sign when an author has to go back 101 years to dig up a success story.
If you are interested in checking out The Drinking Man’s Diet, it’s still in print. Order it through your local bookstore or pick it up directly from the publisher.
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This post has been somewhat of a revelation to me.